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For best school websites: Choosing the best CMS, not template, is crucial. First you have to decide if you need a content management system or just HTML templates.

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Choosing the best system (CMS) not template is crucial

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After 20 years of creating school websites, it has become clear that before choosing school website templates free, you have to decide what kind of system is best for your school website: You have to find out if you need a big content management system (CMS), an easy website builder or if just free HTML templates (see "website building for free" is good enough. This decision is essential since it will decide on how difficult it will be to work on your school website, how much time your work will take and how expensive it will be.

Content Management Systems: pros and cons

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Once you have set up a content management system (CMS) like the most popular Wordpress, Joomla or Typo3, it is quite easy to maintain your entire website and to add up new pages with texts and pictures.

However it takes some time to set up one of these content management systems. Also you might want some special things for your school website which wants more than just texts and pictures, like a members area or an email system. So you will need to install add-ons that are not delivered with the basic installation of your CMS.
This is what makes it difficult: Typo3 for example gets a new version every 18 months. That means that every 18 months you have to update the basic core software. In most cases updates for the core are trouble-free and do not cause any problems. But sometimes they do. Then it is tricky to complete the update and have the entire school website run properly again - although your visitors do not see any improvements. It gets even more difficult if you use add-ons since these are often updated later or sometimes not updated at all. The more add-ons you use the more difficult it gets. And if you do not succeed with your updates you have to ask a specialist and pay for him. So you ask yourself why should I update then at all? Good question, but if you do not, you risk your website not to work any more or even worse to be hacked so that information and viruses are delivered to your visitors.

I have worked with many popular CMS like Wordpress, Joomla and Typo3. They all cause the same problems with updating, sometimes it is uncomplicated, but sometimes very difficult and time or money consuming.

This is why I recommend not using one of these content management systems for a simple school website in which you just present texts, downloads and pictures.

Website builders like Jimdo or Wix

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Website tools like Jimdo or Wix can make it very easy for you to manage your school website, because you do not have to manage the CMS Software or deal with web hosting. All this is done by a company in the background, so that you can solely focus on your contents. The tools will also give many different school website templates which you can choose to design your school website. These templates are completely mobile friendly and work on all mobile devices as good as on a personal computer. The bad thing is that there is always a limit to the creation of individual wishes - at least with regard to the included templates. However you can pay for professional school website design companies who will create individual templates for you. Once this new school website template is set up, you can benefit from the entire system and only focus on your contents, since all the software updates and web hosting is done by the company in the background. Also the school website tools are cheap: For about ten US Dollars or British Pounds a month you can run a professional school website.

Keep your website simple

Yes, there are wonderful and amazing things you can do on your school website. Forums, questionnaires, comment systems and many more. All this is possible, but it takes a lot of skills and time to set them up and what is more: to maintain them. Moreover, you have to make sure that these interactive things are legal and that there is someone who will monitor all the comments, delete them if necessary and answer all those questions. This is why you should keep it simple. Most school websites do not need more than a good structure for about 100-200 pages with only texts, downloads and pictures.

Instead of forums or a comment system, visitors can easily write you an email if they have a question or want to leave a comment. What is more: Only if they take this effort to write an email, their request is really important.

Mobile first

A few years ago the amount of web pages watched on mobile devices exceeded the amount of websites watched on a personal computer. So always make sure that your school website is completely mobile friendly: it should load fast and it should be user-friendly on every mobile device. Even if it is a standard for new templates, optimize your school website for mobile devices and test it.

Using a free HTML and CSS template for your website

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A very simple way of website building for free is using an HTML and CSS template. You can just download a free school website template or buy a cheap template from the internet. On the basis of this template building your free website is very undemanding for you. All you need to know for this is some basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, which is very simple to understand and use. The advantage of this is that you have the full control of your free school website templates, but you do not have to update a CMS. However you have to find a web host to upload your website to.

Moreover, you might want a software like Dreamweaver which will make it a lot easier to create your pages with, by giving you a live preview of your page. But this software costs about 30 Euro a month, so you can also use a simple Freeware Editor like Notepad++ to create your school website design.

Best school websites: examples

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Here are  examples of some of the best school websites:

Professional Companies provide excellent support

There are professional companies who will provide a full service to you. They give you a kind of content management software that is specialized on the needs of school websites. They do all the maintenance with regard to software and security updates and web hosting for you. Excellent help. However this often costs a lot of money, that most schools often do not have.

This is why only a few thousand schools in the world of a guessed few million schools have got a school website that is created completely by a company.

But you can use your money in a smart way: For example you can ask a company only to create the main school website templates free and setup the basic system for you. All the content creation and moving of old pages can easily be done by yourself and your students.

Here are more tips how you can use the excellent help of school website design companies with only some money.

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Conclusion for the best school websites: Choosing the right system (CMS) not template is essential

It is most important that you first think about what the right system is best for you and your school website. Because if you choose the wrong system, this will cause a lot of work and time for you. Or you will end up spending very much money for professional school website design companies which you did not want to spend. So keep your school website simple and use a simple system and only add those features that you absolutely need.

For the best school websites I recommend to either use a website builder like Jimdo or Wix or to use a plain HTML and CSS Template for your school website. Then use a professional design company to create the main school website design for you. Having done this, it is a lot of work but comparatively easy to create new pages or move old pages by yourself or your students.

Or if you are very lucky and have got a lot of money: use a full company service.

Test your new free school website templates and system in detail and check if you can use it easily, make software upgrades easily and if it is a good choice to use for years before you start building your entire school website with it. The time invested in testing will pay off later many times.

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